THE homos are to blame.
That's the message coming from Rome, where the nation's top Catholic bishops were summoned to discuss the widening scandal of children and teenagers being sexually abused by priests.
As anger over the abuse - and the hierarchy's role in covering it up - mushroomed last month, the Vatican's official spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, declared that "people with these inclinations" (meaning homosexuals) shouldn't be ordained in the first place - even though they always have been.
Cardinal Edward Egan's stand-in at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York Sunday agreed that homosexuals should be barred from the priesthood, and branded the United States as "probably the most immoral country" in the Western Hemisphere.
Meanwhile, this week in Rome cardinals from Chicago and Detroit suggested that homosexuality is at the root of the church's current sex problem, while the head of the U.S. Conference of Bishops, Bishop Wilton Gregory, said the presence of a "homosexual dynamic" in the nation's seminaries is driving heterosexual priest candidates away.
This is all part of an effort by church officials to deflect responsibility from where it belongs: on the sick priests within the church, on the bishops and other higher-ups who knowingly moved these predators from job to job instead of drumming them out of the priesthood; and on the celibacy requirement.
"We find this ironic," says Jeffrey Stone, a board member of Dignity New York, part of a national organization of gay and lesbian Catholics. "They were very reluctant to acknowledge that there were gay priests until a few weeks ago."
By now, many of us are aware that there's a substantial number of homosexual priests, although just how many, no one knows for sure. But church officials weren't owning up to that fact until the sex scandal broke. Now they're making it out to be the cause of all the church's current ills.
Yet there are as many theories about why this sexual abuse took place as there are venial sins. Defenders of the church say it doesn't happen more among priests than it does among ministers of other faiths, or among lay people in the general population, and that the celibacy requirement has nothing to do with it. Some influential insiders say the church's problem isn't so much pedophilia (which involves very young children) as it is plain old homosexual activity, in these cases involving teenagers.
The bishops in Rome claim the priesthood is in danger of being overrun by homosexuals, while others say this isn't so. But some researchers argue that the problem isn't with priests who have homosexual inclinations, but with psychologically underdeveloped homosexuals who've been let into the fold.
There isn't a lot of research on any of this, and what research there is appears to be conflicting. But I know this: The celibacy requirement is unique to Catholicism, and in no other religious group has there been a sexual abuse problem of these dimensions. Celibacy requires priests to fight powerful natural urges, and those who can't or won't do that, at the risk of facing public disgrace, prey on the people over whom they have control, which means minors.
Then there's the cover-up. Serial predators like the Reverends John Geoghan, Paul Shanley and James Porter were able to do so much damage because they were passed from job to job by church officials who were more concerned about protecting the church's image than they were with protecting their young charges.
The Catholic Church has always held the position that engaging in homosexual sex is a sin and now seems to be saying that even having a disposition towards homosexuality, however chaste, disqualifies one for the priesthood. But what does it matter if it's a homosexual suppressing his natural desires or a heterosexual? It's an unnatural situation that drives psychologically healthy, good men away from the priesthood, while keeping predators who're in it for the easy pickings.
In his homily at St. Patrick's this week, Msgr. Eugene Clark blamed not only homosexuals, but the highly sexualized U.S. culture for the church's sex scandal. Sure. We all know it was Hugh Hefner and Madonna, sex shops and peep shows, popular music, and sexually explicit behavior in the movies and on television that drove so many priests to prey on minors, and to do it over and over again.
The church fathers are in denial. Their attempt to shift the blame from official church policy and a culture of secrecy and cover-ups to some homosexual scourge within their cloistered walls doesn't convince me that they're making a serious effort to deal with the problem.
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